‘A man who is truly happy in his marriage does not seek satisfaction outside it, Eleni, and I know that with Lizzie I shall find all the happiness I need.’ Ilios defended their relationship, turning to her to lift her hand to his lips and tenderly kiss her fingers whilst gazing into her eyes.
Ilios really should have been an actor, Lizzie decided, struggling against the tide of longing surging through her. She had to be strong, she reminded herself. She had to fight the effect he had on her. She had to prove to herself that she could endure and overcome the effect his closeness had on her.
‘An ex, I take it?’ she couldn’t resist murmuring to Ilios once they had escaped.
‘Of a sort,’ he agreed, a little to her surprise. ‘Although the prey she was hunting was my cousin, not me. When she discovered that he wasn’t going to inherit Villa Manos she dropped him.’
‘And turned her attentions to you?’
‘She tried,’ Ilios agreed. ‘But without success. You handled Eleni extremely well,’ he said, then paused. Unable to stop himself, he told her brusquely, ‘You play your part well. I suspect that every man here is envying me.’
What on earth had made him say that, even if it was true? Why should he care if other men wanted her? The admiration he could see in their eyes was a benefit to him, because it meant that she was being accepted and acceptable as his wife-to-be.
Lizzie couldn’t help smiling at him. There was a soft, warm feeling inside her body—a sweet, tender unfolding of something, happiness, that lifted her. Just because Ilios had—what?—complimented her? She must not feel like that. She must not.
What he had said to her was the truth, Ilios knew. But more than that she had a warmth that drew people to her. He had seen it in the eyes of his friends and in their manner towards her. Could he have been unfair to her, wrong about her and the way he had initially judged her? What if he had? He didn’t owe her anything, after all. She was the one who was indebted to him, not the other way around.
Lizzie wasn’t sorry when it was time to leave the restaurant where they had had dinner with Ilios’s friends, next door to the gallery. Whilst the other people she had met had more than made up for Eleni’s bitchiness with their warmth and readiness to befriend her, and the food at the smart restaurant had been delicious, she had felt on edge—knowing that she was only playing a part, afraid of making a slip that would reveal the truth, and at the same time uncomfortable with the deceit she was having to practise.
A valet brought the car round, and within minutes of leaving, or so it seemed, they were back in the apartment.
‘I’ve set everything in motion for our wedding,’ Ilios told her. ‘It will be a civil ceremony, conducted at the town hall. Normally couples having civil ceremonies go on to celebrate more traditionally with a family party, but in our case that won’t be necessary. I have let it be known that it is because I am so impatient to make you my wife that we are dispensing with a more lavish affair.’
Lizzie nodded her head, relieved that she had her back to him and he wouldn’t see the effect his words were having on her. Tonight, posing as his wife, sometimes almost forgetting that she was simply playing a part, she had felt filled with happiness and…
And nothing, Lizzie assured herself hastily as she removed the watch and then took out the diamond earrings. Her hands were trembling slightly as she remembered how she had felt tonight, standing at Ilios’s side, wanting him, wishing that he would turn to her and look at her with that same longing and need she felt for him.
What she felt for him was quite simply lust. Very shocking, of course, but even so far safer than becoming emotionally drawn to a man who didn’t want her.